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Page last updated at 13:14 GMT, Saturday, 20 November 2010

Wales half-backs frustrate coach Rob Howley

Dan Biggar hauls down rival Fiji 10 Seremaia Bai with help from Dan Lydiate
Dan Biggar hauls down rival Fiji 10 Seremaia Bai with help from Dan Lydiate

Wales attack coach Rob Howley says that half-backs Dan Biggar and Richie Rees failed to shine in the 16-16 draw with Fiji in Cardiff on Friday night.

Seremaia Bai's late penalty gave Fiji a draw at the Millennium Stadium after a lacklustre Wales display.

"I'm really disappointed in the half-back performance, in both Richard and Dan Biggar," Howley said.

"You saw a positive impact from the bench just after half-time with Steve Jones and Mike Phillips coming on."

Wales lost to Australia and South Africa in their first two autumn internationals, so the Fiji game was supposed to provide a morale-boosting win ahead of next Saturday's clash with New Zealand.

Warren Gatland made nine changes to the starting XV from the one that lost 25-29 to the Springboks, the coach giving players a chance to raise their standing and perhaps push for a place against the All Blacks.

"When you give opportunities to these players, you don't get many internationals in a year to give that opportunity and you expect players to take it," Howley added.

Gatland 'embarrassed' by Welsh display

"The players who were given that opportunity will probably be disappointed with their performances.

"It's been very sobering, to be honest we were lucky to get the draw.

"The way Fiji played, physical at the tackle area to win 24 turnovers, obviously we just couldn't get our game going.

"We just couldn't create anything and as a result of that the speed of the ball was slow.

"Our backs, Andrew Bishop and Hooky [James Hook], were quite lateral and not attacking that inside shoulder and not staying square, and on a couple of occasions running George [North] out into touch."

Ryan Jones returned from a calf injury to captain Wales but it was his error in the final minutes that gifted Fiji the penalty chance that Bai kicked to level the scores.

But Wales had lacked direction for most of the game and post-match Gatland was quick to confirm that hooker Matthew Rees - rested against Fiji - would return to captain the side against New Zealand next week.

"Warren has been pretty disappointed with the overall performance and Matthew has captained particularly well when Ryan has been injured, and Gats has made that call straight away," Howley said.

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"I don't think it was the sole result of the last-minute error - I think there's aspects of Matthew's game and the way he's led when he has been captain - but that's a key error in terms of Ryan's game.

"Ryan's stood up, in fairness, in the changing room and said that he was absolutely devastated by that decision and the error in his game."

Howley is sure that Wales will pick themselves up from the disappointment for next week's encounter with the All Blacks.

"When you play against the Blacks you don't need any motivation at all, you don't need any motivation when you play against Fiji," Howley said.

"The lessons which players should have learnt over the last twice they've played them - just winning 11-10 and going out in the Rugby World Cup - was sufficient warning when we came into that game.

"We have to learn quickly that it's adapting and making the right decisions and keeping ball, and we didn't keep ball. You don't deserve to win when you've turned the ball over 24 times."

Ryan Jones

Highlights - Wales 16-16 Fiji

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see also
Jones takes blame for Fiji draw
19 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Welsh players are gutted - Lydiate
20 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Wales 16-16 Fiji
19 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Fire and flair: Fijian rugby
29 Sep 06 |  Rugby Union
Wales v Fiji: Full record
29 Sep 06 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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